So just what goes on inside the minds of a creative team that make the transition from the greatest love story ever told, Pixar’s award winning movie Up, to the journey inside the mind of 11-year-old Riley? Last January I traveled to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California for a special sneak peek at this sure to be blockbuster from the studio that not only gave us Up, but such classics as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Monster’s Inc. to sit down and talk to director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera who have taken on the monumental task of going from the adventurous, famously tear-jerking tale of an old man, a house and a lot of balloons in Up to switching the age focus the other way, chronicling the world of an 11-year-old girl named Riley who, by the way, did I mention, is not the main character- she’s the setting of the movie.
Inside Out takes place within Riley’s mind, exploring how her emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear deal with a traumatic move from the Midwest to San Francisco when Riley’s family is uprooted by her father’s job. Docter and Rivera immediately put you at ease from the moment they enter the room- it’s like being with the friends from the neighborhood that you grew up with and shared all of life’s moments with-from the biggest down to the smallest.
Docter started the ball rolling by sharing “We both have kids. My daughter was the voice of young Ellie in Up She was nine when we recorded that and was actually a lot like that character. She would walk up to strangers and go, “Hello,” talk to people, and was spunky and bubbly. Then she turned 11 and 12 and things changed a little bit-she got quiet. We talked to her teachers who’d say, “Ellie’s a quiet girl.” And we’d ask, “Who are you talking about?” Sometimes you go through a very difficult time in life from both from the kid’s point of view, and the parent’s point of view.
From those moments in his life, the movie Inside Out was born. It is the story about figuring out just what is going on inside the place known as the mind.
Inside Out, which will be released June 19, 2015, will break new stylistic ground. While previous Pixar movies have aimed for realism, Inside Out came with new challenges and uncharted territory.
“We’re doing stretchy, squashy stuff we’ve never been able to do before,” as it is literally a story coming directly from the inside of the mind of 11-year-old, Riley. It features the central characters that make up her emotions -Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), all of whom vie for control of Riley’s decisions when her family relocates from small-town Minnesota to San Francisco. Riley is struggling to cope with the new situation as she hits the age when kids start to lose their childlike sense of happiness and head towards the grumpier tween / teen years. Joy and Sadness find themselves trapped elsewhere in her mind, and must make their way back to “headquarters” even as their colleagues try to hold things together.
We had this idea of using emotions as our main character- Anger, Fear, Sadness, Disgust and Joy. It was this concept that lead to this great research that we got to do talking to psychologists and neurologists, and really deep dive into the how and why we think and feel. A lot of that research has shown up in the film, and then of course we made some stuff up too because after all, we wanted to create something that not only told a story that hadn’t been told before, but that was fun to watch as well.
Rivera shared that the film’s greatest challenge was its multilayered narrative. Docter expanded by explaining “It’s two stories at the same time, and they have to relate to each other,”
So just how difficult was it to bring to life a story that personified the emotions of a tween, especially coming off of the success of Up?
Like all the films we do, it’s built on many iterations of the same thing. It was a concept that was pitched to John Lasseter in June of 2009 and then other projects such as Monsters University came along so it had been tumbling around in the background for a little while. The way we tend to work here is that we’ve been asked to pitch three ideas, and that way we can kind of play around and use them to play off of one another. We knew it was a little unorthodox, but here there are no rules.
Both Docter and Rivera had worked at Pixar since Toy Story changed animation in 1995, and they wanted their new film to push the genre’s limits again without alienating audiences.
The puzzler was, how could we take audiences somewhere that they could relate to, but they’d never been before?
They responded with Inside Out’s animation as well as its story.
The emotions are not rendered as solid—they are composed of tiny particles of light. We wanted them to look like emotions feel, Their unusual texture presented us the opportunity to reject the realism previous Pixar animations had pursued.
Even from the small portions of the film we were treated to, it was clear that the results of their collaboration will take you on a journey in animation unlike any other and will touch something inside of you no matter what your age.
Like asking you which one of your children is your favorite child, it’s hard to say which Pixar movie is your favorite. Each one of them strikes a chord with you and pulls on your heartstrings in their own unique way. They all make you laugh, they all make you cry and they all touch your soul and stay with you long after the lights come back on, but from what I’ve seen of Inside Out, and hearing first hand how the idea became a reality, I may just have a new favorite-by a little bit at least.
Next, I will share with you some of my behind the scenes glimpses of the Pixar Animation Studios as well as my interview with director James Ford Murphy and producer by Andrea Warren, the team that brings Lava, animated musical short film that will open in front of Inside Out when both come to life in theaters everywhere on June 19, 2015.
Find out all of the latest from inside Riley’s mind!
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INSIDE OUT opens in theaters everywhere on June 19th!